World War I
Manfred von Richthofen in World War I
Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918), popularly known as the "Red Baron," was the most successful ace of World War I with over 80 credited air victories. Born in Silesia to a noble family, Richthofen began the war as an artillery spotter. In 1915, he joined a new German flying unit and began his illustrious career. He was instrumental in developing the Flying Circus, a new type of mass air attack that confounded the Allies for years (and inspired Monty Python).
Von Richthofen's famous Fokker triplane, painted red to help his fellow Germans to identify him, is the iconic figure of a pilot in World War I. The Allies dubbed him "The Red Baron" out of respect for his skills. After he was killed in action on 21 April 1918, the Australian unit that retrieved his body gave him a full military funeral, later dropping propaganda with pictures of the ceremony over German lines.